Port aldermen deny liquor permit, saying bar is incompatible with downtown redevelopment plans
Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday voted 5-1 to deny Troy Koput a liquor license for Devilleâs Lounge â the former Foxyâs tavern â saying a bar there is
incompatible with redevelopment plans for the downtown.
The Common Council cited the buildingâs proximity to other structures being rehabbed, particularly the nearby Boerner Mercantile Building that is undergoing
extensive renovations, as well as past conduct at the location and uncorrected building code violations in making its decision.
Only Ald. Jim Vollmar voted against the motion. Ald. Dan Becker was absent.
Vollmar, who noted the building is set up as a bar, said he would favor a strongly regulated business to having an empty building downtown.
But other aldermen said they didnât see tangible evidence that Devilleâs would be any different than Foxyâs.
Too much of Koputâs proposal is based on the hope that things will change, Ald. Doug Biggs, a member of the Finance and License Committee, said.
âUnfortunately, I learned very early in my career that hope is not a plan,â he said.
Ald. Paul Neumyer said he voted against the license because he wants the city to rewrite its policies regarding taverns to incorporate stricter regulations.
âI think we need to revisit that before we issue new liquor licenses,â he said.
The councilâs action followed roughly 40 minutes of testimony, including statements by Koput and several of his supporters and Police Chief Kevin Hingiss,
each of whom was sworn in by City Attorney Eric Eberhardt during the formal hearing.
Supporters also lobbied aldermen during the public comments portion of the meeting before the hearing.
Nick Meier, 402 Heritage Rd., said Koputâs plan shouldnât be judged based on the cityâs experiences with Foxyâs.
âI donât think any new business should be judged on a previous businessâ record,â Meier said. âIf it was a problem business, it should have been shut down.
âI think we should be encouraging growth rather than having another empty building. I donât see how a lounge would be a negative.â
Ben Lanza, whose son Andy was the owner of Foxyâs, said he was disappointed by the councilâs decision and frustrated by attacks on Foxyâs.
âFor nine years, he (Andy) ran a good place,â Lanza said. âNow heâs being pulled down into the mud. Foxyâs was a nice place.â
Unlike Foxyâs, which catered to a young crowd, Devilleâs was envisioned as a lounge where people of all ages could gather and socialize, Koput said, a
place like the one his grandfather enjoyed.
âI always liked the atmosphere there,â he said, referring to his concept as âan old-school loungeâ where people could have meetings and socialize.
âIt would be more social than drinking,â he said. âThatâs how Iâm trying to alleviate a lot of the problems that have occurred.â
He planned to serve food, Koput said, although he wouldnât have a full kitchen initially. That, he said, could come in time.
While his business plan might not offer the specifics aldermen sought, Koput said, the work he has already done to the building is testament to the change
he wants to create.
âPeople who have walked through the business, they know itâs different,â Koput said. âAll the comments Iâve gotten are that itâs much nicer.â
The city may have had problems with Foxyâs, he added, but he was not the owner of that establishment and shouldnât be punished for those issues.
Christian Zaga, who was originally hired by Koput as the lounge manager but was let go after the cityâs concerns came to light, said that the fact he had
worked at Foxyâs shouldnât affect the decision on Devilleâs license.
âI did work at Foxyâs. I did not have any management (responsibility),â he said.
Zaga said he had discussed plans for Devilleâs and its security with Hingiss, saying he wanted to work with police.
But Hingiss, who said problems with Foxyâs âpretty much ran the gamut,â said he was concerned when Zaga said he hoped Devilleâs would open by
Thanksgiving, when college students return home.
Without significant changes, Hingiss said, âYouâre going to have the same people there; youâre going to have people overserved; and youâre going to have
the same problems.â
But Zaga said itâs unfair to judge the bar based on the number of calls to police. Bartenders are told to call when they need assistance.
âItâs a Catch 22,â he said. âWeâre frowned upon because we called and asked for police assistance, but weâre supposed to cooperate with police.
âNow, a new business is jeopardized for calling police.â
Aldermen deliberated about 20 minutes following the hearing, which was recessed about halfway through so Koput could get a copy of his business plan for
But officials who looked at what Koput referred to as a portion of his business plan said there wasnât enough detail to prove to them things would change.
âI was expecting you to come in here with a plan,â Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee, said. But the plan aldermen saw
wasnât specific, he said, and didnât outline such things as the hours, type of lounge, music to be played and food to be served.
âWe have the utmost respect for what you want to do,â Larson said. âBut thereâs nothing tangible for us to go on.â
Ald. Mike Ehrlich said he was intrigued by Koputâs plan for a lounge.
âI thought, âThis is what weâre looking for,ââ Ehrlich said. âBut everything I saw in your business plan ... didnât show a lounge. It showed more of a bar.
âI donât want to see the same thing happening over and over. Youâve got to show me something that will be different.
âI hope you keep working on it.â
Koput withdrew his application for a cabaret license after the liquor license was denied and left the meeting.
However, several of his followers remained, seeking information on what recourse Koput has to obtain a license.
He can reapply for the liquor license or appeal the councilâs decision in circuit court, Eberhardt said.
They also questioned why Koputâs application was scrutinized more than others, noting the council recently approved a license for the Port Hole without the
same amount of angst.
Just last Sunday, Dec. 9, a complaint of music being played the Port Hole so loud it shook a home was received at 1 a.m., according to police.
There were building code violations pending but the owner was given time to fix them, Zaga said, adding that business also doesnât serve food and has
generated a number of calls to police.